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Oct 2016

Unexpected hazards: The simple things that cause big accidents


female carpenter using a jigsaw

Accidents can occur in the strangest ways. Usually we associate workplace accidents with significant risk factors: such as heavy equipment malfunctions, serious gas leaks, and exposure to dangerous chemicals. However, it is crucial to remember that accidents can occur as a result of even the most seemingly insignificant factors.

Long hair, don’t care? Think again.

Men: are you constantly brushing your hair out of your eyes? When you bend over to tie your shoe, does your hair hang to the ground in front of you? What about when you eat? Does it sometimes drag through your spaghetti? Your pizza? Your hair isn’t just hampering your eating abilities, it can also be a threat to your safety.

Women: Do you experience some of the same issues mentioned above? Actually, many of these issues may be more common for women. Regardless, it is crucial to remember that long hair can contribute to workplace accidents. No one says you have to cut it; but you have to be aware of it and manage it accordingly.

A quick search on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s website will reveal numerous reports related to long hair. The majority of these injuries and fatalities occurred when an employee’s hair became entangled in machinery. Long hair that is not secured by some sort of tie or hat can be easily sucked into, twisted around, or caught in machines. Oftentimes, these instances result in significant injury for the worker, and sometimes death.

So how do you mitigate the risks long hair imposes? Well, the obvious answer is to enforce a hair length rule. However, this may not be feasible. Rather, employers should provide effective training and information to workers about the risks they face if they choose to have long hair. Employees who do have hair long enough to be a safety risk should take precautions. For example, tying hair in a ponytail or some other type of suspension device. When possible, long hair can be tucked beneath a hat or visor to keep it in place and out of the way.

Cleanliness is Everyone’s Job

Do you know what can ruin someone’s day in a hurry? Tripping over some garbage and pulling a hamstring. Clutter, trash, and messy workspaces can lead to injuries; not to mention molds and smells. Every employee should take it upon himself (or herself) to maintain a clean work environment.

Slips, trips, and falls are one of the leading causes of workplace injury.  Are you aware of areas in your workplace where these accidents are likely to occur? Water leaks can lead to slippery floors, and poorly laid electronic cords can easily trip someone up. Identifying these areas and making sure the workspace is clean will keep everyone on their feet.

Everything Between the Ears

Many accidents are caused simply due to a lack of concentration, unfocused employees, or mentally ill employees. Mental health is absolutely crucial to workplace safety. There are the more obvious hazards, such as depression. However, mental hazards can vary day by day. For example, imagine a worker had a fight with a significant other. During their shift their mind is on their relationship, and their lack of concentration leads to an injury. Maybe their hand drifts too close to a band-saw, or they miss a rung on a ladder.

Ultimately, it is crucial that workers fight to maintain their concentration while at work. We are all human, and our minds will certainly wander from time to time. However, focusing on the task at hand is a key component in maintaining a safe workspace.

Employers can work to keep their employees mentally healthy and focused by encouraging a healthy balance between work and other aspects of life. Taking sufficient time and giving enough energy to other important aspects of life – such as family, fun, and relaxation- can go a long way in keeping employee’s mentally strong. Not only so, but it will be easier for employees to focus on work when they are satisfied in other areas of life.

The examples in this article are only a snapshot of the many small, seemingly insignificant factors that can cause workplace accidents. Employers, as well as employees, need to be aware that accidents happen quickly and often as a result of a careless mistake. Make sure employees in your workplace are taking their time, maintaining concentration, and taking all necessary precautions to protect themselves.

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